Bennet, Henry

, earl of Arlington, was descended from an ancient family, and was second son of sir John Bennet of Arlington in Middlesex, by Dorothy, daughter of sir John Crofts of Saxham in the county of Norfolk. He was born in 1618, and educated at Christ-church in the university of Oxford, where he took the degree of master of arts, and distinguished himself by his poetical compositions, several of which were occasionally inserted in books of verses published under the name of the university, and in others in that time. In the beginning the civil war, when king Charles I. fixed his chief residence at Oxford, he was appointed under-secretary to lord George Digby, secretary of state; and afterwards entered himself as a volunteer in the royal cause, and served very bravely, especially at the sharp encounter near Andover in Hampshire, where he received several wounds. When the wars were ended, he did not leave the king, when success did, but attended his interest in foreign parts; and, in order to qualify himself the better for his majesty’s service, travelled into Italy, and made his observations on the several countries and states of Europe. He was afterwards made secretary to James, duke of York, and received the honour of knighthood from king Charles II. at Bruges in March, 1658, and was soon after sent envoy to the court of Spain; in which negociation he acted with so much prudence and success, that his majesty, upon his return to England, soon called him home, and made him keeper of his privy purse. On the 2d of October, 1662, he was appointed principal | secretary of state in the room of sir Edward Nicholas; but by this preferment some advances were evidently made towards the interest of Rome; since the new secretary was one who secretly espoused the cause of popery, and had much influenced the king towards embracing-that religion, the year before his restoration, at Fontarabia on Which‘ account he had been so much threatened by lord Culpepper, that it was believed he durst not return into England, till after the death of that nobleman.

In March 14, 1664, he was advanced to the degree of a baron, by the title of Lord Arlington of Arlington in Middlesex, and in 1670, was one of the cabinet council, distinguished by the title of the Cabal*, and one of those ministers, who advised the shutting up of the exchequer. April 22, 1672, he was created viscount Thetford and earl of Arlington and on the 15th of June following, was made knight of the garter. On the 22d of the same month he was sent to Utrecht, with the duke of Buckingham and lord Hallifax, as ambassadors extraordinary and plenipotentiaries, to meet jointly with such as should be appointed by the king of France, and with the deputies from the States-General, but this negociation had no great effect. In April 1673, he was appointed one of the three plenipotentiaries from the court of Great Britain to Cologne, in order to mediate a peace between the emperor and king of France. In January following, the house of commons resolving to attack him, as well as the dukes of Lauderdale and Buckingham, who were likewise members of the Cabal, the last endeavoured to clear himself by casting all the odium upon the earl of Arlington; who being admitted to make his defence in that house, answered some parts of the duke of Buckingham’s speech, but was so far from giving them satisfaction with regard to his own conduct, that they immediately drew up articles of impeachment against him, in which he was charged to have been a constant and vehement promoter of popery and popish councils; to have been guilty of many undue practices in order to promote his own greatness; to have embezzled and wasted the treasure of the nation; and to have falsely


This name was composed of the initial letters of their titles, viz. Clifford, Ashley (afterwards Shaftesbury), Buckingham, Arlington, Lauderdale. Tuey had all of them great presents from France, besides what was openly given them. The French ambassador gave each of them a picture of the king of France, set in diamonds, to the value of 3,000l.

| and traiterously bet ayed the important trust reposed in him, as a counsellor and principal secretary of state. Upon this he appeared before the house of commons, and spoke much more than was expected; excusing himself, though without blaming the king. This had so good an effect, that though he, as secretary of state, was more exposed than any other, by the many warrants and orders which he had signed; yet he was acqu.tted by a small majority. But the care, which he took to preserve himself, and his success in it, lost him his high favour; with the king, as the duke of York was greatly offended with him; for which reason he quitted his post, and was made lord chamberlain on the lith of September 1671-, with this public reason assigned, that it was in recompence of his long and faithful service, and particularly for having performed the office of principal secretary of state for the space of twelve years to his majesty’s great satisfaction. But finding, that his interest began sensibly to decline, while that of the earl of Danby increased, who succeeded lord CiiHord in the office of lord high treasurer, which had ever been the height of lord Arlington’s ambition, he conceived an implacable hatred against that earl, and used his utmost effort* to supplant him, though in vain. For, upon his return from his unsuccessful journey to Holland in 1674-5, his credit was so much sunk, that several persons at court took the liberty to mimic his person and behaviour, as had been formerly done against lord chancellor Clarendon; and it became a common jest for some courtier to put a black patch upon his nose, and strut about with a white staff in his hand, in order to divert the king. One reason of his majesty’s disgust to him is thought to have been the earl’s late inclining towards the popular opinions, and especially his apparent zealous proceedings against the papists, while the court knew him to be of their religion in his heart, [n confirmation of this a remarkable story is told; that col. Richard Talbot, afterwards earl of Tyrconnel, having been some time absent from the court, upon his return found lord Arlington’s credit extremely low; and seeing him one day acted by a person with a patch and a staff, he took occasion to expostulate this matter with the king, with whom he was very familiar, remonstrating, how very hard it was, that poor Harry Ben net should be thus used, after he had so long and faithfully served his majesty, and followed him every where in his | exile. The king hereupon began to complain too, declaring what cause he had to be dissatisfied with his conduct, “who had of late behaved himself after a strange manner; for, not content to come to prayers, as others did, he must be constant at sacraments too.” “Why,” said colonel Taibot interrupting, “does not your majestydo the same thing?” “God’s fish,” replied the king with some warmth, “I hope there is a difference between Harry Bennet and me.” However, in 1679, lord Arlington was chosen one of the new council to his majesty; and upon the accession of king James II. to the throne, was confirmed by him in the office of lord chamberlain. He died July J8, 1685, aged sixty-seven years, and was interred at Euston in Suffolk. By his lady Isabella, daughter of Lewis de Nassau, lord Beverwaert, he had one only daughter, Isabella, married to Henry, duke of G ration.

He was, according to bishop Burnet, a proud man; and his parts were solid, but not quick. He had the art of observing the king’s temper, and managing it beyond all the men of that time. He was believed a papist, for he had once professed it, and at his death again reconciletl himself to the church of Rome. Yet in the whole course of his ministry, he seemed to have made it a maxim, that the king ought to shew no favour to popery, since all his. affairs would be ruined, if ever he turned that way: which made the papists become his mortal enemies, and accuse him as an apostate, and the betrayer of their interests. His character is drawn by Mr. Macpherson, in his History of Great Britain, with conciseness, spirit, and justice. *’ Arlington supplied the place of extensive talents by an artful management of such as he possessed. Accommodating in his principles, and easy in his address, he pleased when he was known to deceive; and his manner acquired to him a kind of influence where he commanded no respect. He was little calculated for bold measures, on account of his natural timidity; and that defect created an opinion of his moderation, that was ascribed to virtue. His facility to adopt new measures was forgotten in his readiness to acknowledge the errors of the old. The deficiency of his integrity was forgiven in the decency of his dishonesty. Too weak not to be superstitious, yet possessing too much sense to own his adherence to the church of Rome, he lived a Protestant, in his outward profession; but he died a Catholic. Timidity was the chief | characteristie of his mind; and that being known, he was even commanded by cowards. He was the man of the least genius of the parry; but he had most experience in that slow and constant current of business, which perhaps, suits affairs of state better than the violent exertions of men of great parts." 1


Biog. Brit, a very prolix and elaborate panegyric defence of lord Arlington, ingenious indeed, but partial beyond all evidence of fact. We have preferred following Dr. Birch in the above sketch. Those who wish to investigate his lordship’s character more minutely, must consult Dr. Campbell’s account as corrected in the last edition of the Biog. Brit. See also the third volume of Clarendon’s State Papers, Supplement, p. 80—84.